During his prime years, Jaromir Jagr was often a polarizing figure, but at 42, he’s essentially in his “Teemu Forever” stage of being widely beloved.
Of course, he’ll turn 43 during his second season as a member of the New Jersey Devils, so the question must be uttered once again: will this finally be the year that he looks like an old man?
No signs of slowing down
His work in the 2013-14 season defies logic. While some bounces likely went his way, it’s not like he scored 24 goals and 67 points by accident. His shooting percentage was a modest 10.4, which only looks imposing compared to his bizarre playoff run with the Boston Bruins (zero goals on 58 shots in 22 games in the 2013 postseason).
The thing that might be most surprising is that he was stunningly dominant in possession stats, something that aging players rarely accomplish (Jarome Iginla was a nice asset for Boston last season, yet the underlying numbers argue that he was at least slightly propped up by Milan Lucic and David Krejci).
Oh, what would this team be without Jaromir Jagr this season? He’s the team’s leader in points with 24 goals and 43 assists. He’s the team’s leader in shots on net with 231. He’s the team’s leader in both Corsi For% and relative Corsi For% in 5-on-5 play at 59.2% (!) and +7.1% (!!) among regulars per Extra Skater. The latter is important to note because being present for shooting attempts and generating them means that when he’s on the ice, the play is going forward. Even by the eye test, #68 has constantly picked on defensemen and forwards along the boards, in the corners, and even in open ice. The remarkable thing isn’t that he’s done all this at the age of 42. It’s that he’s done all this and made skeptics like me not only look foolish but seriously feel that bringing him back may be a good idea.
The fall can be dramatic
Jagr is a noted fitness buff, yet sports history is stacked with players who saw dramatic drops in a single season. Even gracefully aging icon Teemu Selanne dropped to healthy scratch status during the Anaheim Ducks’ turbulent 2014 postseason and that’s a rather mild example of how jarring the fall to mediocrity recall can be.
If motivation is a factor, the Devils must hope that Jagr really cares about milestones, then:
All-time points leaders:
4. Ron Francis – 1,798
5. Marcel Dionne – 1,771
6 tied. Jagr – 1,755 and Steve Yzerman 1,755
All-time goals leaders:
3. Brett Hull – 741
4. Dionne – 731
5. Phil Esposito – 717
6. Mike Gartner – 708
7. Jagr – 705
Even a limited-but-healthy Jagr could probably finish 2014-15 in the top five in both categories, but if he really wants to stick around for a while, why not flirt with fourth?
Ultimately, it’s been a great run for Jagr, and he doesn’t seem interested in ending it anytime soon. NHL teams have little reason to pull the plug, either … at least so far.